Charlton Heston's Alzheimer's Announcement and Goodbye
- Published on Wednesday, 14 January 2009 01:22
- Written by Stanton O. Berg
"My Dear Friends, Colleagues and Fans:
My physicians have recently told me I may have a neurological disorder whose symptoms are consistent with Alzheimer's disease. So...I wanted to prepare a few words for you now, because when the time comes, I may not be able to. I've lived my whole life on the stage and screen before you. I've found purpose and meaning in your response. For an actor there's no greater loss than the loss of his audience. I can part the Red Sea, but I can't part with you, which is why I won't exclude you from this stage in my life.
For now, I'm not changing anything. I'll insist on work when I can; the doctors will insist on rest when I must. If you see a little less spring in my step, if your name fails to leap to my lips, you'll know why. And if I tell you a funny story for the second time, please laugh anyway. I'm neither giving up nor giving in. I believe I'm still the fighter that Dr. King and JFK and Ronald Reagan knew, but it's a fight I must someday call a draw. I must reconcile courage and surrender in equal measure. Please feel no sympathy for me. I don't. I just may be a little less accessible to you, despite my wishes.
I also want you to know that I'm grateful beyond measure. My life has been blessed with good fortune. I'm grateful that I was born in America, the cradle of freedom and opportunity, where a kid from the Michigan Northwood's can work hard and make something of his life. I'm grateful for the gift of the greatest words ever written, that let me share with you the infinite scope of the human experience. As an actor, I'm thankful that I've lived not one life but many. Above all, I'm proud of my family...my wife Lydia, the queen of my heart, my children, Fraser and Holly, and my beloved grandchildren, Jack, Ridley and Charlie. They're my biggest fans, my toughest critics and my proudest achievement. Through them, I can touch immortality.
Finally, I'm confident about the future of America. I believe in you. I know that the future of our country, our culture and our children is in good hands. I know you will continue to meet adversity with strength and resilience, as our ancestors did, and come though with flying colors - the ones on Old Glory.
William Shakespeare, at the end of his career, wrote his farewell through the words of Prospero, in "The Tempest." it ends like this:
Be Cheerful, sir.
Our revels now are ended. These our actors,
As I foretold you, were all spirits and
Are melted into air, into thin air:
And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,
The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,
The solemn temples, the great globe itself,
Yea all which it inherit, shall dissolve
And like this insubstantial pageant faded,
Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff
As dreams are made on, and our little life
Is rounded with a sleep.
Thank you, and God bless you, everyone."
(President Reagan and Charlton Heston 1980's)
I certainly count my self as one of Charlton Heston's fans and I know that June was also.
This Oscar Award winning actor was noted for his Biblical epics. ("The Ten Commandments", "Ben Hur", "El Cid".)
For several years he was President of the Screen Actor's Guild.
During World War II he served as a gunner in a B-25 with the Eleventh Air Force in the Aleutian Islands.*
He was a civil rights activist "long before Hollywood found it fashionable." He participated in the 1963 Civil Rights March on Washington.
Originally he was a Democrat who later became a very staunch Republican conservative.
In later years he was the President of the National Rifle Association.
He was a close friend of another Alzheimer's victim, President Ronald Reagan.
Charlton Heston's Alzheimer's disease progressed very rapidly. In 2005 family and friends were reported as shocked by the progress of his illness and that he was sometimes unable to get out of bed. In April of 2006 it was reported in the press that his Alzheimer's was at an advanced stage and family worried he would not survive the year. He passed away from complications of Alzheimer's (pneumonia) on 5 April 2008 only 5 years and 4 months after his diagnosis in early August of 2002.
The average life expectancy is said to be 8 years from time of Alzheimer's diagnosis. It is said that one's remaining life is reduced to one half after an Alzheimer's diagnosis.
June Berg struggled with Alzheimer's disease for almost 11 exhausting years before God finally took her home on October 23rd, 2008. (June's photo is on the right.)
Charlton Heston was age 84 when he died. (4 October 1923 - 5 April 2008) Using the shortened life expectancy rule, one would have expected Charlton to have lived to about 90.
* Because of the high risk factor of age, the WWII veterans are hard hit with Alzheimer's disease. Approximately 50% are victims of this terrible disease.
Charlton was also a WWII Veteran as was his friend Ronald Reagan.
Rick Hunsicker - Bethlehem, Pennsylvania - (11 February 2013): "Fine words from a fine gentleman..."
Dianne Cogar - Springfield, Ohio - (11 February 2013): "He died on my birth-date, April 05... From a very young age, like many I was always lured in by his fatherly figure and his amazing acting abilities, he was such a natural and so very convincing!"
Rachel Evans - Douglas, Isle of Man - (11 February 2013): "So like my Dad. Dad was diagnosed late. I guess to protect my young sister and also so he could carry on driving etc. He didn't want to face the inevitability of what he had and he deteriorated so much in the last 6 months. Heartbreaking...Lovely letter."
Lora Rushing Robinson - Benton, Louisiana - (11 February 2013): 'What a moving letter, he was a fine man...thank you for sharing."
Gill Denman - (11 February 2013): "Interesting article Stanton, as always."
It was almost 11 years after June's Alzheimer's diagnosis in January of 1998, before God finally took June home.
June passed away on 23 October 2008 just a few days short of her 81st birthday.
Using the rule of shortened life expectancy, one would have expected June to live to approximately 90 plus years.
June Berg's funeral announcement as published in the Minneapolis Star - Tribune in October 2008 can also be found on this website on the top blue navigation strip under the "In Memoriam" label and on the drop down menu or click the below link: